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SVG not ready to board ALBA bus

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This country’s Prime Minister says that much more than verbal assurances will have to be given if St Vincent and the Grenadines is to sign on to the Venezuela backed Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).{{more}}

While throwing his support behind his Dominican counterpart Roosevelt Skerrit, who signed Dominica onto ALBA at the just concluded ALBA summit in Venezuela, Dr Gonsalves said St Vincent and the Grenadines will not follow suit.

He said that Skerrit got assurances from the other member countries in ALBA that they will not be pushing for duty free access into the Dominican market, which will be at odds with CARICOM trade agreements.

Dr Gonsalves said that during the summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told him (Dr Gonsalves) that that assurance was clearly given to Dominica.

“Those people who are beating up on Prime Minister Skerrit for ideological reasons, are beating up on him unfairly because he has been given the undertakings,” Dr Gonsalves said.

Such an assurance is, however, not enough for St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Dr Gonsalves said that there must be juridical documentation attached, which will not allow any trade arrangement within ALBA that conflicts with CARICOM.

“In my case, I don’t just want a verbal undertaking, I want a juridical document. I can’t be the spokesman for CARICOM on governance and do something which, though it doesn’t undermine governance in the region, gives the appearance that it has the potential so to do,” Dr Gonsalves said.

Dr Gonsalves, however, said it would be ideal if like Cuba, all the other member countries of ALBA pursue trade agreements with CARICOM.

On February 17, 2007, Dr Gonsalves, along with Skerrit and Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, signed on to the Principles of ALBA, during a state visit by President Chavez to St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The agreement embraced the principles of ALBA, including its many functional components like Petro Caribe, educational scholarships, infrastructural assistance, and eye care services, but did not include the political and trade components.

According to the statement signed, they will together “fight the irrational consumption of energy by industrial nations” as they “make happier the lives of the people who have for many centuries dwelt in this region.”

The statement credits the strong political will of the four nations for making sure that the unity between Latin America and the Caribbean be formed more quickly over the last ten years, compared to decades before.

The four leaders signed what the statement suggests is a moving away from a failed strategy of looking to other parts of the world for solutions to problems “which we could solve by ourselves.”

The statement alludes to a common origin shared by the four nations united by the Caribbean Sea and a similar historic background; “the product of the labour of Africans and native Indians who underwent years of enslavement.”

Dominica has now taken the next step, becoming a full member of ALBA.

Among the immediate benefits of this membership will be access to the newly formed, US $1 billion rich ALBA bank, which will fund projects in ALBA member countries.

Each of the five member countries, including Dominica will have membership on the bank’s board, Dr Gonsalves said.

The Bank was commissioned last Saturday. (KJ)

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